The legendary intelligence agent known as “the German James Bond” has been handed a two-year suspended jail sentence after being convicted of tax evasion, reports The Telegraph.
Werner Mauss, who is known as “Institution M” and “007” in his native Germany for his work negotiating the release of hostages in the Middle East and Colombia, was also ordered to donate €200,000 (£178,000) to charity.
Prosecutors sought a custodial sentence of more than six years. But Judge Markus van den Hövel said he had taken the 77-year-old Mr Mauss’ record of public service into account in handing down a suspended sentence.
“His is a great achievement, for which the court has the highest respect,” he said.
The extraordinary trial lasted more than a year and featured claims by Mr Mauss that he was working for unnamed Western intelligence agencies against Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (Isil).
He also told the court he had personally prevented a mafia plot to assassinate Pope Benedict XVI.
His is a great achievement, for which the court has the highest respect
Mr Mauss was accused of evading €13.2m (£11.8m) in taxes on profits from offshore investments over a period of ten years.
He claimed the offshore funds never belonged to him, but were in a trust fund set up by unnamed Western intelligence agencies to finance his work.
A list of expenses he submitted to the court included spending hundreds of thousands recreating a tropical beach scene complete with palm trees in a conference room at a Frankfurt hotel to stage a truce between the Thai government and rebels.
Prosecutors alleged Mr Mauss had spent the money on a lavish lifestyle of high performance cars and race horses.
In a highly unsual ruling, the judge said the court neither accepted nor rejected Mr Mauss’ claim intelligence agencies had set up the trust fund for him.
But he ruled that at some point the money had passed into Mr Mauss’ possession, and that he should have declared it in his tax return.
However, the court accepted Mr Mauss’ expenses claims and ruled that he had evaded only a maximum of €2.3m (£2m).
Mr Mauss is legendary in Germany for personally capturing a member of the far-Left Baader-Meinhof terror group and negotiating the release of hostages held by the Lebanese Hizbollah.
But it has never been entirely clear how much he is master-spy, and how much master self-publicist.
A freelance agent rather than an intelligence officer, he is believed to have worked extensively undercover for Germany’s BND intelligence service.
His claims of more recent operations against Isil on behalf of various Western intelligence agencies have been impossible to confirm.